A walk through time
Local history buffs learn about Fourth Street’s past—and its possible future
You can’t help noticing it as you drive down Fourth Street.
A bright orange building that was once the site of Alpine Glass Company attracts—or repels, depending on your opinion—the gaze of drivers and pedestrians. But underneath that garish shade is a beautiful, red-brick building, according to Gaye Canepa, a Fourth Street business owner and a member of the Historic Reno Preservation Society.
Fortunately, several red-brick buildings on Fourth Street have withstood the ravages of time. And not only do these structures serve as reminders of Reno’s past, but they remain useful in the 21st century, as many of these buildings are occupied by businesses.
Canepa told a group of 20 people the story behind these early 20th-century edifices during a historic tour of Fourth Street, one of several hosted by HRPS during Artown.
On this mild, overcast Saturday morning, the group met at Louie’s Basque Corner and headed east down the street. The walk lasted for an hour and a half and concluded at Windy Moon Quilts, which was once Wells Fargo Bank. Along the way, Canepa dispensed information and anecdotes about familiar Reno landmarks such as Flanigan Square and businesses such as Martin Iron Works, which has been operating since the 1930s.
“Our corridor is so unique, because we are the last of old Reno,” Canepa said in a phone interview the day before the tour. “We’re it, and we have some of the neatest buildings in the city.”
Some of the buildings highlighted on the tour include the first stop, Louis’ Basque Corner, 301 E. Fourth St. This structure, built in 1922, was occupied by several businesses over the years, including the Richelieu Hotel and the Lincoln Hotel, according to an informational handout printed by HRPS last year. Louis and Lorraine Erreguible opened their Louis’ Basque Corner in 1967. Near the Basque restaurant stands Reno’s first traffic light, complete with its control box.
The group then walked next door to the lovely Barengo Building, which is vacant today, although a Dickson Realty sign advertises the property for sale. The two-story, red-brick building at 325 E. Fourth St. was designed by prominent Nevada architect Frederick DeLongchamps and was built in 1910 as the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad Depot. Next to this building stood a locomotive house and machine shop that were built in 1889.
A short trek down, Canepa pointed out Alpine Glass at 324 E. Fourth St. She said the building was remodeled in 1927, but no one knows for sure when the structure was built. Alpine Glass inhabited the site for more than 50 years. Unfortunately, Canepa said, it’s threatened by the proposed downtown railroad trench project; the shoofly would cut through part of the building. Reno Forklift’s building—the original home of Martin Iron Works, which moved to its current spot at 530 E. Fourth St. in the 1950s—is also threatened by the proposed train trench.
Other highlights of the tour included:
· Reno’s first neon sign, which hangs outside of Abby’s Hwy 40, 424 E. Fourth St., the former home of the Rumpus Room. Although the original sign had stars in it, they’ve since been removed. But Canepa said it’s possible to restore the sign, since the stars are in storage.
· The old Reno Brewery bottling plant at 900 E. Fourth St., which still contains its artesian well. Canepa said the current owners of the property are trying to attract a microbrewery to the site, but so far, there have been no serious offers.
· Flanigan’s Square, 701 E. Fourth St., was built in 1902 and was used to store animal hides. Today, it is the home of Forever Yours Furnishings. Inside the store is an old-fashioned elevator hidden behind double doors.
Canepa said that she’s been a member of HRPS for three years and has been leading walks down Fourth Street for about as long. She said she researches each place by talking to long-time residents of the area, as well as reading old newspaper articles and books.
Although Fourth Street has often been regarded as a run-down area of town, signs of rebirth have appeared during the last three years, with businesses such as Big Ed’s, the Alturas Bar, the Stock Exchange and Anchor Auctions settling into the red-brick buildings. Canepa praised the businesses for maintaining the historic integrity of these sites.
Although the train trench has raised some concerns about a few of the historic buildings in the area, Canepa appears optimistic about the region’s future. She said that locals are becoming more aware of Fourth Street’s historical value and appreciate the beauty of the red-brick buildings. Plus, she said, the business owners get along well together, and that makes for a close-knit neighborhood.
“It’s going to turn around, and it will complement downtown," she said. "Fourth Street will once again be a very up-and-coming area. It is the place to invest right now."